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An afternoon with Chuck Hughes and 19 excitable kids at The Stop’s after-school program

Chuck Hughes leads the cooking class at The Stop’s after-school program (Image: Jenna Marie Wakani)

Yesterday afternoon, Chuck Hughes took a break from promoting his new cookbook, Garde Manger, to join 19 eager kids in a cooking class at The Stop’s after-school program at Wychwood Barns. Upon his arrival, three enthusiastic youngsters took Hughes on a tour of the Stop’s facilities at the barns (the organization was one of Canada’s first food banks and has since expanded into a community hub with a wide-reaching mandate that includes community gardens, food markets and advocacy). Some highlights of Hughes’s kid-led tour included handling compost and worms and ogling the now-in-their-prime seedlings that were about to be shipped out to west-end community gardens. We couldn’t resist tagging along.

Before leading the class at the after-school program (designed to get low-income youngsters engaged with food and cooking), Hughes strolled through the Stop’s international community garden. At the Filipino garden, we learned that the Chuck’s Day Off star had just returned from an Asian tour where he had snacked on such, ahem, delights as balut. We also learned that on his Eastern travels he got a new tattoo, a crowned durian. “When I learned that it was called the king of fruits, I had to get it,” explained Hughes.

Before getting down to the brass tacks of teaching the kids how to fillet a Lake Erie silver bass, Hughes started with a short lesson on kitchen safety. But while he talked about hygiene, the celeb chef was scolded by the fastidious after-school gang for opening a faucet with fishy hands. Echoes of “contamination!” filled the room. When all the veggies were prepped and the fish filleted, the kids went off to play (including a memorable game of jump rope), with one exclaiming how awesome “Chuck Norris” was and that this was “the best day ever.”